25 June 2010

My new favorite for cauliflower

Here's a quick and delicious summer side-dish: pan-roasted cauliflower with lemon juice and Parmesan.  A splash of lemon juice brightens things up, and I love how the salty Parmesan cheese melts and clings to each floret, bringing out the nutty flavor of the roasted cauliflower.  It is so good.

Taking only minutes to make, it's an easy dish to get to the table, and I think it would be a great complement to almost any entree.  And since cauliflower is a good source of fiber and Vitamin C, this would be a great starch substitute if you're watching your health.

Pan-roasted Cauliflower with Lemon and Parmesan
Serves 2-4

2 Tbs. olive oil
1 whole head cauliflower, cut into florets
1-2 Tbs. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup. finely-grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste
handful Italian parsley, minced

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with olive oil and arrange the cauliflower florets on top.  Sprinkle in about 1 tablespoon of water, then cover with a tightly-fitting lid.  Heat skillet on medium-high heat and sear the florets, checking color occasionally and shaking the pan when bottoms become golden brown.

Once cauliflower has roasted and become fork-tender, transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkling with lemon juice, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper to taste.  Toss gently to coat, then sprinkle with a bit of minced parsley for a dash of color.

19 June 2010

A plummy tart

One of my favorite recipes from the collection that I've inherited from my German grandfather is Zwetschgenkuchen, a plum kuchen that might be considered more like a fruit tart in the American way of thinking.  The combination of sweet-tangy plums and buttery, crisp cake is a favorite with my family, and when I found this plum tart recipe with the extra flair of an almond frangipane filling, I knew it would be something that everyone at home, especially my father with his German-schooled tastebuds, would love.

I usually make traditional Zwetschgenkuchen only once a year, during the one week when the small, oval Italian prune plums (Zwetschgen) are in season and locally available.  (Every summer, I keep my eyes peeled for them and pounce the moment I find out they're at Tri-County.)  But with black plums as the featured fruit in this recipe, we get to enjoy plum cake a little early this year, just in time for Father's Day!

This plum frangipane tart is truly delicious.  The pastry dough is buttery and crunchy, the toothsome almond filling is aromatic with ground nuts and the addition of Kirschwasser, and the sweet-n-tart plums fanned out on top accent the tart with gorgeous color.  You'll definitely need to try this amazing dessert this summer--either with whipped cream if you're more the traditional type, or with softened yogurt ice cream, for a fresh twist.

Kirschwasser, a liqueur made from distilled cherries, is commonly served throughout southern Germany as a digestif and is an ingredient I've become familiar with through my German baking.  First and foremost in my mind, it's a requisite ingredient for Himbeersahnetorte, but the almond-like overtones (due to the presence of the cherry pits during distillation) add nice complexity of flavor to glazes and fruits as well.  Here, I've incorporated it into both the frangipane filling and the glaze that is brushed over the top of the sliced plums after baking.

Plum Frangipane Tart 
Adapted from Restaurant As (Bon Appetit, June 2010)
Serves 8 

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 Tbs. (or more) ice water 

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 large eggs
2 tsp. Kirschwasser
1 1/3 cups almond flour or almond meal**

1-1/4 lbs. black plums, halved, pitted, sliced 1/4-inch thin 

1 Tbs. apricot or quince jelly
1 Tbs. Kirschwasser

To make the crust, mix flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor.  Add butter and blend until coarse meal forms.  With processor running, add ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms clumps.  Transfer dough onto a large piece of plastic wrap and press clumps together to form a disc.  Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

While dough chills, prepare the frangipane filling.  Using the same food processor, beat together the sugar and butter until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, blending after each addition, and then mix in the Kirschwasser.  Add the almond meal and mix well.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.

Roll out dough on the unfolded plastic wrap into a 12-inch circle.  (If dough is too sticky, place another piece of plastic wrap over and roll the dough out sandwiched between the two layers of plastic.)  Transfer crust to a 10-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  Fold overhanging edges in and press crust into the fluted edges of the pan.  Freeze crust 30 minutes.

Line the frozen crust with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights (I used dried pinto beans).  Bake crust at 375 F for 20 minutes, then remove foil and weights and bake until golden brown, about 25 minutes longer.  Cool.

Pour the filling into the cooled crust and spread evenly over.  Starting at the outside edge, arrange plum slices in concentric circles over the top of the filling.

Place tart on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 F for 45 minutes, until filling is brown all over and center is set.  Just before removing tart from oven, prepare the glaze by heating the jelly and Kirschwasser together and stirring until liquefied.  Brush glaze over the warm tart and let cool for 15 minutes before releasing it from the pan.  Let tart continue to cool, serving slightly warm or at room temperature.  Cut tart into wedges and serve with lightly sweetened, freshly-whipped cream, or with a tart yogurt ice cream.

** If you cannot find almond flour or almond meal, it is easy to prepare it at home!  Blanch 2 cups whole almonds in a large pan of boiling water for 30-60 seconds until skins have puffed up and are loose.  Remove pan from heat and rinse almonds in cold water to stop cooking.  "Pop" almonds out of the loose skins and pat peeled almonds dry.  Pulse in a food processor until almonds are finely ground.  Measure out 1 1/3 cups for use in this recipe; save remainder for another use.

14 June 2010

One whole year has come and gone


Today I came to the belated realization that Apricosa's one-year anniversary slipped by a week ago!  Over this past year, I have loved having the opportunity to share with you some of my favorite dishes.  I love the beauty in the colors, smells, textures, and tastes that surround the making and eating of good food.  And I love connecting with people in the context of this beauty.  While I haven't had the chance to cook for most of you in person, it is my hope that the stories, pictures, and recipes here have blessed and inspired you in your own culinary endeavors.

I just wish I could spend more time cooking, photographing, writing, blogging...  But, the reality is that there is this beast in the corner called "Grad School" which just won't go away, and I have my duties towards it.  Though the beast promises to lurk about a while longer, I will continue to keep checking in here, posting more great recipes whenever I have a chance!  This blog has been such a welcome creative outlet for me, counterbalancing all those hours I spend in front of a microscope in my windowless biology lab.  (Yes, my lab is located in a beach-front building.  No, I do not see the light of sun all the work-day long.  But that makes Apricosa, and the light-filled photos on it, all the more special to me.)

Well, if you have been following my posts here at Apricosa, I want to let you know that it totally makes my day when I get comments from readers.  Seriously!  For me, the enjoyment that I get out of all of this is really because I get to share this with you, and having your feedback makes it all the more fun.  On the occasion of this one-year mark, I am especially curious to hear from you about what your favorites on Apricosa have been?  I invite you to browse throught the past year's postings!  What is your favorite photo?  Favorite story?  Favorite recipe?  Do you like the savory dishes best?  Or the sweets even more?

06 June 2010

Baked donuts...a chocolatey sequel!


Ever since I made those Baked Cinnamon Sugar Donuts, I knew I had to try a chocolate version.  I loved the concept of a non-fried, yeast-leavened donut, and I couldn't wait to play around with new flavors.  Just think, a homemade chocolate donut that's light and fluffy, baked not fried, and glazed with chocolate ganache.

Since you won't have to worry about working with quarts of hot oil, this donut recipe is actually quite safe and easy to make.  And they're healthy too, these chocolate donuts.  Really.  Since they're not fried.  Right?

Well, maybe the smooth and glossy, chocolatey ganache isn't the healthiest thing ever, but if you want to indulge, this sure is the way to go!  Serve up these delectable donuts for dessert with an ice-cold glass of milk, or omit the ganache and enjoy them as a chocolate morning bread.  Your tastebuds will rejoice.  And so will your friends, when you bring them a tray of these donuts!


I used just half a teaspoon of instant espresso powder to deepen the chocolate flavor of the donuts.  Feel free to consider this ingredient optional if you don't happen to have it on hand!

Baked Chocolate Donuts with Chocolate Ganache Glaze
Makes ~ 10 donuts and 10 donut holes

2/3 cup warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. instant espresso powder
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg, lightly beaten

1 Tbs. butter
Scant 1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir in the yeast and let sit for five minutes.  If yeast does not bubble up, discard and start again with fresh yeast.  Meanwhile, stir the butter into the remaining warm milk to melt it.  Whisk together the sugar, cocoa powder, espresso powder, flour, and salt.

To the softened yeast, add the dry ingredients, the remaining milk with melted butter, the vanilla extract, and lightly beaten egg and mix together with the paddle attachment to combine.  Switch to the dough hook and continue mixing until dough is smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, adding more flour if dough is sticky or more milk if too dry.

Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead a few times (dough should be barely sticky), shape into a ball and place in an oiled boil, turning to coat the dough with oil.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1-2 hours.

Punch dough down and roll it out onto a lightly-floured surface to 1/2-inch thickness.  Cut out 4-inch circles and transfer them to parchment-lined cookie sheets.  Then cut out 2 1/4-inch circles from the centers.  Loosely cover the donuts with plastic wrap.

At this point, you may either let the donuts rise for 45 minutes and proceed to bake them, or refrigerate them overnight.  After refrigeration, let donuts rise 1 hour in a warm place.  Bake at 375 F 8-10 minutes, then let cool for about 10 minutes.

While donuts are baking, place the butter and whole milk in a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat, whisking constantly to melt butter and prevent the milk from burning.  As soon as the milk reaches a boil, remove from heat and add chocolate chips, whisking until chocolate melts and the ganache is smooth and glossy.  Let cool slightly.

To glaze the donuts, invert each donut and dip into the chocolate ganache, allowing the excess chocolate to drip off before setting the donuts upright.